It took awhile for these words to come together. I started writing the story of Maureen nearly a year ago. I purchased this shirt on a whim. I had no idea it would be kicking off 12 months of my life where I would be destroying all the subconscious mental and emotional things that were not working for me. A year ago, I would not have thought there was much to work through. Therein lies the beauty of discovery and experimentation.
I look back on myself a year ago and think of how sweet and naive I was on this day. The day that I met who I call Maureen, an alter-ego in an article of clothing. What a twisted, glorious ride it has been. Every superhero has an origin story, this is hers.
365 days ago
On Saturday, Sept. 8, I arrived in Portland for a weekend with Jenn. We went to breakfast at Beeswing, then thrift shopping at Artifact on Division.
I’ve written about my dear friend, Jenn, before. For two gals who have spent most of their relationship living thousands of miles apart, we have had numerous memorable adventures together.
There is an indescribable magic in being with this woman. We’ve gone from the East Coast to the West Coast and at this time last year, she had been joking about that meme that says, “We’ve been friends so long, I am not sure who the bad influence is.” That’s us now.
Inside Artifact, the first item that I put my hand on was a vintage top made completely of large black sequins and delicate beadwork. I grabbed it off the rack and just to be funny, I held it up and asked Jenn, “Should I get this?”
“Yes!” she said.
“Ok, but where would I wear it?”
“You can wear it out tonight,” Jenn said.
And she was just so confident about her statement that I decided to try it on. Thinking it would not fit at all.
I went to the dressing room and of course it fit perfectly. As if Oleg Cassini had stitched it for me himself. I was still not convinced that I should buy this $24 sequined top. So I did what I always do when I am undecided about a clothing item: I walk around the store with it to get acquainted and try to imagine my life if I purchase it. Maybe it’s not that serious but I try not to purchase things I’m not going to wear and I had brought a very tiny suitcase to Portland.
As I perused the store, I found a couple other items and tried them on and the top again. I took a few dressing room selfies, sent one to my friends in San Diego and asked them if I should buy the top. This is how purchase decisions are made in modern times.
A few affirmative text messages later, I strolled up to the register at the front of the store to purchase the shirt.
“Oh, this is interesting. Where are you going to wear this?” the cashier asked me.
Even in PORTLAND — where the motto is “Keep Portland Weird” — the cashier was questioning my wardrobe choice. I didn’t think someone in Portland would think anything of this.
Feigning confidence I replied, “Anywhere! Everywhere! Like Dolly Parton, I am going to be working it 9 to 5.” (Truer words were never spoken, because I wear this top as often as possible.)
Jenn and I left the store and as we walked down Division, I was convinced I had just wasted $24 of my hard-earned dollars on this item.
That night we had plans to go out with our friend Sarah to take in all that the Portland nightlife had to offer us.
Our evening started around 7 p.m. with dinner at Jenn’s house. I was sitting at the kitchen table decked out in my sequins and regaling my married counterparts with my recent ill-fated dating experiences.
“Let’s see what kind of men I can fetch in this shirt,” I said, feeling rather plucky.
Then in one of my favorite moments of this evening, Sarah asked, “What time will we get back? Like do you think we will be home before 2 a.m.?”
Jenn and I exchanged a glance that said, “No way will we be home before 2 a.m.” I don’t remember exactly what we responded, but it amounted to a bunch of vague mumbling that Sarah generously accepted.
We set out in an Uber and I made stupid jokes from the backseat for 20 minutes as I often do. The three of us decided that the woman who had owned the sequined shirt before me was a bawdy dame named Maureen who had retired to Miami. She took no prisoners and had no qualms at the end of her life. Maureen had done it right and left it all on the cutting room floor. That woman left a legacy that I was now wearing.
Our first stop on this tour was a wine bar where we did have a great bottle of wine, but it was so subdued, I thought it must be too early for the denizens of Portland to be out. I was dressed to meet people and so I cast my vote to move along.
We did, and we went to Revolution Hall. Very cute, very trendy and yet again… subdued. Which is my polite way of saying that there were like five people in flannel shirts there and the bartender who I do not recall as being overly chatty. Or chatty at all.
We decided to mosey along again. This time to Roadside Attraction. The eclectic portal to another dimension that is disguised as a Florida yard sale inside a Chinese restaurant on a pirate ship.
Remember, I was dressed to fetch men, and here we were at yet another establishment with nary a person in sight. I set about entertaining myself with Jenn by queuing up several Johnny Cash songs on the jukebox.
However, the jukebox was free and some jackass had clogged it with about a million Black Sabbath songs. Don’t get me wrong, Ozzy Osbourne has a time and a place, but to me the time was not 12 a.m. on Saturday night while I was wearing sequins. It just wasn’t.
I was annoyed by the lack of tomfoolery I was looking for and was about to convince everyone to give up. In fact, I have a text message that I sent to Jenn around this time that says, “Let’s get out of here.” I don’t know where I sent it to her from, maybe the bathroom? But just as I had sat myself back down at the bar cursing this city devoid of men to fetch, “Folsom Prison Blues” finally came over the speakers.
I turned to Jenn with glee and decided we could at least stay a little longer. The next moment, I saw someone leaning over the jukebox and either Maureen or I yelled, “Don’t touch the jukebox!” Super classy.
The man looking at the jukebox claimed he merely wanted to look at the CD that was playing because he had never heard the Johnny Cash version of the song before. I was disgusted by this. But in this alternate universe in the middle of Portland, I befriended this person and convinced him to hop on our proverbial Midnight Express as we took off for not one, but two more bars. None of which had people in them.
In a way, I did temporarily fetch a man with those sequins, kind of like a fishing lure. And after laughing and rollicking our way around the city, we finally landed back at Jenn’s house around 3:30 a.m. (Sorry, Sarah.) Concluding the first of many chapters with Maureen.
If you’re a keen observer, you will know that I wore this sequined shirt when I did the Moth this summer!